UMMC Opens Operating Room of the Future

For immediate release: April 28, 2003


Bill Seiler

[email protected] | 410-328-8919

New facility combines advanced technology and design to enhance patient safety and efficiency

The University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore will open the nation's newest, most technologically advanced surgical facility on June 16, when the first surgical procedures will be performed. The facility, located in the Medical Center's new 380,000-square-foot Weinberg Building, will house 19 operating rooms for adult and pediatric patients, two minor procedure rooms, a 28-bed Post Anesthesia Care Unit and a beautifully furnished Same Day Surgery Center for optimal patient comfort. The new facility will also have a new Surgical Prep Center for pre-operative assessments with a separate pediatric prep area exclusively for children.

The surgical facility, which is being called the "OR of the Future," will occupy 52,000 square feet and will combine the most advanced video and other communications equipment with information technology in order to enhance patient safety and operational efficiency. More than 15,800 surgeries are performed at the Medical Center each year.

"These operating rooms have been built from the ground up. They are 30 percent larger and they bring together the latest innovations to benefit today's surgical patients in terms of the facility's design and technology," says Stephen C. Schimpff, M.D.,executive vice president and former CEO of the University of Maryland Medical Center.

"While a few other hospitals have installed some of these new technologies, we are unique in that we have tied them all together throughout the new facility," adds Dr. Schimpff.

All of the new operating rooms will have advanced built-in imaging systems with mobile monitors to assist surgeons in performing a variety of minimally invasive procedures. Other monitors will give the surgical team immediate access to vital patient information, such as lab results and CT scans.

"The new touch screen feature on the computer monitors is an exciting innovation. It will enable our operating room staff to instantly access diagnostic images and laboratory results for the surgeons and anesthesiologists to review," says Mary Jo Breslin, R.N., director of Perioperative Services at the University of Maryland Medical Center.

"The new equipment -- cameras, lights, monitors and various instruments -- will be part of a docking station attached to a boom from the ceiling, in order to eliminate clutter within the operating rooms, improve patient safety and give surgeons closer and better access to images. Also, it will enable us to replace equipment components when necessary without any down time for the room," says Roger W. Voigt, M.D., medical director of the operating rooms at the University of Maryland Medical Center and assistant professor of surgery at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.

Wide-view cameras will beam images from all 19 operating rooms to video monitors located in a secure control room. From there, operating room coordinators will keep the OR activities running more efficiently, such as preparing the room for the next patient. And they can immediately dispatch extra help or equipment if needed. The video linkages also include other units within the surgical facilities, such as the Post Anesthesia Care Unit and the Minor Surgery Suite.

Four of the rooms will have sophisticated telemedicine capability with live, two-way audio and video feeds that show the entire room as well as views inside of tiny scopes inserted within the patient. These telemedicine connections will enable the surgical team to train other doctors as cases are underway, whether they are down the hall, across the country or around the world. Two of these rooms will have equipment that is voice-activated, allowing the surgeon to adjust the lights, bed, monitors and camera views using a voice recognition system customized for each surgeon.

The design of the new OR facility has been carefully planned to enhance patient safety and reduce the chance of infection. There is a new, state-of-the-art sterile processing department. All sterilized instruments will enter the operating rooms from one hallway and exit by a different route after they are used. A sterile storage corridor lining the back of the operating rooms will protect those supplies yet afford the surgical teams easy access to what they need.

In order to reduce the risk of patient exposure to airborne impurities, a special air handling system has been installed in each room that filters out microscopic impurities. The purified air comes into each operating room from the center of the ceiling, directly above the patient. Then, the air is drawn out through vents near the floor, on the perimeter of each room.

One of the operating rooms is outfitted with galvanized steel and copper walls to house an MRI scanner, which is not normally found in an OR. The scanner will enable surgeons to have real-time images to guide them in very delicate surgical procedures, such as removing a brain tumor. Surgeons will be able to use the MRI within the operating room to assess their progress-without closing up the patient and determining later that a second surgery is needed.

In coming months, more innovations are planned, according to Bruce Jarrell, M.D., chief of surgery at the University of Maryland Medical Center and professor and chairman of surgery at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.

"We will be using new types of technology in order to provide even better care for our surgical patients. For example, using a grant from the Verizon Foundation, we'll evaluate new uses of wireless communication equipment in the operating rooms to give doctors access to lab results and other patient information without interrupting direct patient care. And in partnership with the Department of Defense, we hope to test a robotic system to sterilize and check instruments and help manage inventory," says Dr. Jarrell.

Plans also are being developed to install a new information system that works like an "easy pass" on toll roads. Using a transponder attached to each patient's stretcher, it would signal the location of each patient and send all relevant medical information about that person to a computer within the operating room. These types of innovations may lead to even greater progress in caring for patients more safety and efficiently.

Because of valuable support from the Maryland Congressional Delegation, some of the new equipment has been funded by a grant from the U.S. Army's Telemedicine and Advanced Technology Research Center through a Department of Defense appropriation of $2.5 million last year. The Medical Center expects to receive an additional $3 million in the current fiscal year.

Senators Paul S. Sarbanes and Barbara A. Mikulski, Representatives Benjamin L. Cardin, Elijah E. Cummings, Steny H. Hoyer, C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger, and Governor Robert L. Ehrlich, Jr. have been strong proponents of this important initiative and were key in securing the Department of Defense funding.

The new Weinberg Building was designed by Perkins & Will and Kohn Pederson Fox, along with the Design Collective of Baltimore.

"The University of Maryland Medical Center is well known for its leadership in many surgical areas-in all forms of minimally invasive surgery, delicate neurosurgery, pioneering cardiac surgery, innovative orthopaedic procedures, and as the nation's largest kidney transplant center. So it is fitting that we now prepare to open the most innovative, technologically advanced new surgical facility," says John W. Ashworth, chief executive officer of the University of Maryland Medical Center.

Ashworth adds, "Our OR of the Future is here today."